Quick! What has fur, corgi ears and a bird beak, and can supposedly learn English? If you didn't guess the Furby, well, no one would hold it against you. The hottest toy on the market in the late 1990s is today little more than a faded memory, the subject of Internet snark and Urban Dictionary entries.
Released in 1998 by Tiger Electronics, Furby stood 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) tall, was covered in colorful fur, and could play games and wiggle its body. Tiger marketed the computerized critter as one of the first widely available "artificial intelligence" toys.
One of Furby's tricks was to "learn" English (thereby easing relations with those few owners not fluent in Furbish); actually, it was simply programmed to speak less of its gibberish language over time, replacing it with English. When one Furby was brought together with another, the two would engage in gibberish conversations, much the way some humans do.
The hideous, hirsute critters debuted with a $40 price tag, but in the proud tradition of holiday fad toys, soon saw demand drive their prices into the hundreds. In just three years, more than 40 million freakish furballs flew off the shelves, in a menagerie of shapes, sizes and themes, including a Christmas Furby, Halloween Furby and even a 2000 Presidential Election Furby [source:AdoptAFurby.com].
Perhaps inevitably, the Furby's popularity faded. They remain available on the Internet, but are scarce in stores.
Coming up next: Another artificial pet -- one that could fit in your pocket.